Posts Tagged ‘moraine winery’

The Okanagan Wineries you REALLY Want to Visit

April 13, 2016

Okay, that time of the year again. Spring, which means wineries are putting out new releases and opening up their tasting rooms!

It also means the so called wine experts are starting to write about “where to go” to taste wine. And, as usual in BC, for some reason some of the best wineries are getting left off that list!

So here you go…based on my experience tasting BC wines since the breakthrough 1998 vintage, these are the Okanagan wineries that you want to go to, and the wines you want to taste there!

1. Naramata

Start here or finish here, doesn’t matter…this is the best wine region not only in the Okanagan, but in BC. Once there, you should check out:
* La Frenz (for all wines, as it is the best winery in Canada)
* Kettle Valley (for Pinot Noirs)
* Nichol (for Syrah)
* Marichel (for Syrah)
* Moraine (for Syrah, Pinot Noir and Riesling)
* Howling Bluff (for Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir)

2. Similkameen

Still a bit unknown, and not a lot of wineries, but do check out Eau Vivre (world class Pinot Noir, plus Malbec) and Orofino (amazing Cali style Syrah, plus Pinot Noir and Riesling).

3. South Okanagan

The Osoyoos/Oliver region is the area most well known, and the one the big critics like. But it doesn’t have the best wineries. There are some very good ones, however, so check out:
* Blue Mountain (actually in Okanagan Falls, but worth the trip, as with Kettle Valley, the best Pinot Noirs in BC)
* Church and State (Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay)
* Burrowing Owl (Syrah)
* Moon Curser (Syrah, Bordeaux blend)
* Cassini Cellars (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay)
* Nk Mip (Pinot Noir, Syrah)

There you go…you can do these wineries in 2 days if you like. My wine guide can show you how!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Advertisements

2015 Victoria Wine Festival

September 23, 2015

I’m looking forward to my first trip to the Victoria Wine Festival. With family on Vancouver Island, we get there fairly often, and I try to ‘do’ the wineries once a year as well. But to date, I have been to their Festival.

And after scanning the wineries/wines, I am looking forward to it even more!

First and foremost, what a delightful surprise to see so many small, but great BC Wineries are going to be there! My tasting list will certainly include:

• Quail’s Gate – their Old Vines Marechal Foch is perhaps the best in BC, with rich, meaty flavours
• Moraine – a relative newcomer, Moraine is making great Rhone style Syrah, full of peppery, earthy cherries
• Howling Bluff – rapidly becoming the standard barrier for value-priced white wines, Luke’s
Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc blend is amazing, and his more expensive Pinot Noir shows great potential as well
in a Burgundy/Cali cross style
• Gray Monk – I stumbled across their sparkling rose (Odyssey Brut Rose) and was amazed at the fresh
strawberries in this wine
• Marichel – Richard is a Rhone-specialist! His Syrah is richer and riper than almost all others in Naramata
(think Aussie Shiraz without the jam) and his Viognier is old-school – floral, dry, with none of the fruit
cocktail flavours you get from many new world wines
• Perseus – another newcomer making great value wines, including a non-oaked Merlot that fairly bursts with
cherries and berries
• Eau Vivre – last but not least, this Similkameen Winery goes from success to success with its multiple award
winning Pinot Noir, which remains a steal at about $20!

With that list, I could spend a good part of my evening!

But it looks like there are other great wines to try as well. From France, I see Perrin’s Vacqueyras Le Christin, a Grenache blend from the southern Rhone that is accessible young but ages beautifully; it is an annual Robert Parker favourite, and I have multiple vintages in my cellar.

Italy is well represented with Barolos from Damilano, Altesino’s Brunello di Montalcino, and Amarones by La Dama. These are expensive wines and it is great to get a chance to taste them in this format! The challenge is deciding if there is enough fruit to survive the tannin…but I am up for it!

Finally, don’t forget California! Ravenswood has a couple of Zinfandels, which are classic blackberry bombs! Belle Glos’ single vineyard Pinot Noir is also there, which I have never tasted but heard good things about. And Stag’s Leaps’s Petite Sirah, usually a brooding giant of a red wine with years of aging in it.

Sparkling, white and red…that will be my tasting strategy, and I will try to tweet out my tasting notes in real time!

So stay tuned, and if you want more info about the event, check out the website at http://www.vicwf.com.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Handicapping the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration

August 19, 2015

Okay, back from holidays, and I can’t resist being a bit cheeky with my first blog!

It relates the the 2015 BC Pinot Noir Celebration scheduled for this weekend in Kaleden (in BC’s beautiful Similkameen Valley). For those not familiar with the event, it was started last year by a number of BC wineries to celebrate the so-called ‘heartbreak grape’. Billed purposely as a ‘celebration’ and not a ‘competition’, it never-the-less has entry requirements and features tastings that can’t help but lend themselves to comparisons! And with international wine celebrity Steven Spurrier the host this year (he of Bottle Shock fame), there may be more competition references than ever!

So given that – and my interest in being cheeky – I am going to handicap the event similar to the way film critics do with potential Academy Award winners!

My categories will be three:
* best overall Pinot Noir Winery
* best Reserve Pinot Noir (5 + years old)
* best regular Pinot Noir.

In doing this, I will also reference wineries/wines that aren’t there if that is relevant.

So here we go!

Best Pinot Noir Winery

My Nominees: Kettle Valley, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Meyer

a) Should win – Kettle Valley (not there)

BC Pinot Noir dweebs like me know that the Kettle Valley Hayman Vineyard is the only true Burgundian Pinot in BC, as well as one of the best. The more Cali-style Reserve is not far behind, and even the regular Pinot Noir is beautiful. This award would be an easy choice for me!

b) Would win – Quail’s Gate or Meyer Family

Quail’s Gate has been making reserve and regular Pinot Noirs since the beginning of the BC wine industry and while the former are a bit pricey, they are definitely good. Plus they are VQA. Meyer is a relative newcomer, but gets good press for its pricey wines. And according to the media, are the only BC Pinots that Spurrier has followed in England. Neither make better Pinot Noirs than Kettle Valley, but…Take your pick!

Best Reserve/High End Pinot Noir (5+ years old)

My Nominees: Kettle Valley Hayman, Kettle Valley Reserve, Blue Mountain Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Averill Creek Reserve, Howling Bluff, Meyer (Mclean Creek or Reimer), Foxtrot, Quail’s Gate Family Reserve, Cedarcreek Platinum

a) Should win – Kettle Valley Hayman (not there) and Blue Mountain Reserve

Boy, this would be a great tasting…and one I would pay just to attend! I have cellared half of these wines for a decade or more, and tasted the rest a number of times.

Based on my experience, after 5 years in a better than average vintage, you would actually have to pick two wines because of different styles. The Hayman starts tasting/smelling like Burgundy at that age, and there is nothing else in BC like it. Meanwhile, the Blue Mountain Reserve has evolved as well, into a Burgundy/Cali clone. Different, but just as delicious.

By the way, a couple of wines would be sleepers, if only because I haven’t seen them age yet. Both Howling Bluff and La Frenz have stepped up big time in this category…it will be interesting to watch their wines as they age!

b) Would win – Quails Gate Family Reserve or Cedarcreek Platinum or Meyer (either)

Both Quail’s Gate and Cedarcreek are long time darlings of the industry. They do make good (if often expensive) wine, but not as good as either the Blue Mountain Reserve of Kettle Valley Hayman (or the Kettle Valley Reserve, La Frenz Reserve, Howling Bluff and Averill Creek Reserve). Same for Meyer.

Best Regular Pinot Noir

My Nominees: Averill Creek, La Frenz, Eau Vivre, Moraine, Blue Mountain, Quail’s Gate, Cedarcreek, Meyer, Okanagan Crush Pad, Tantalus

a) Should win – Eau Vivre (not there) or Averill Creek

Eau Vivre is a back to back Lieutenant Governor Award winner and still about $20…’nuff said! A great wine, year in, year out. And Averill Creek’s regular Pinot Noir is a stunning achievement, not just for Vancouver Island, but for anywhere.

Others to watch? La Frenz’s new regular Pinot Noir, and Moraine (a new kind on the block).

b) Would win – Okanogan Crush Pad, Tantalus

The former is the latest media darling – a spot for winemakers to come make their wines. A good idea, but I haven’t tasted great Pinot yet. And Tantalus? They are one of the founders of this event…
Now, let’s wait for the media to report out this weekend!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

THE NEW SWEET SPOT – THE $20 WHITE WINE

August 13, 2014

With the great, hot summer here in B.C. we have been drinking a lot of white wine, way more than usual. A lot of it has been local, and very good indeed!

But as I look at the bills each time I pay for it, there has been another constant – almost all of these wines have been under $20. And that got me to wondering why that was the case.

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon/Sauvignon blends, Pinot Gris, Riesling, even most Viogniers – all at that price point. And that was the case whether the wines were made by La Frenz, Moraine, Howling Bluff, Marichel or Church and State. So what’s up?

Well, part of it might be oak – or, in fact, the lack of it. One thing all of these wines have in common is they are done in stainless steel, with little or no oak aging. Oak barrels are expensive, particularly if you use new oak, and that has to be passed on the purchaser.

Support for this argument includes the fact that there are no Chardonnays on this list. I could have added in Township 7 and Quinta Ferreira (both of which clock in at about $20), but they are not quite in the same class as some of these other wines. Similarly, the Ensemble by La Frenz – a white Bordeaux clone of oak aged Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – is gorgeous, but around $30.

So lack of oak is probably one reason for the $20 price point.

But I suspect there is another – winemakers (at lease in BC) have decided that $20 is what consumers are comfortable spending on a local white wine.

And by “comfortable”, I mean three things. First, that may be as high as paying customers will go. There are reserve BC whites that go higher than that, but they don’t seem to be as popular. Secondly, customers may well be thinking that anything less than $20 might mean the wine isn’t that good! And, given the selection under that figure, they are probably right.

There may also be one last reason. $20 might just be “the new $10”.

What do I mean by that? Well, when I got into wine almost 30 years ago, it seemed like everyone was looking for the $10 wine. And many producers – from Chile and Spain, in particular – were providing that. I can’t remember what the BC wine prices were then, because it was pre-free trade, and there wasn’t any quality wine around.

But now – whether it is inflation, incomes or just changing expectations – consumers may just look at the $20 bill and think “what can I get for that”, in the same way they used to look at the $10 bill.

Whatever the reasons, at least in BC, $20 is the new sweet spot for white wines. And with the quality available out there at that price, I am okay with that, and wish it was the same for red wines!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

THE 2014 SB WINE AWARDS – PART 2

July 24, 2014

Okay, part two of the 2014 SB Wine Awards – the red wines!

While I won’t provide reviews for these wines, I will give you some context, as the vintages covered here were quite a bit different and had an impact on the red wines (more so than the white wines).

There are a couple of 2010s here, which were late releases. 2010 was a good year for BC wines in Okanagan, with no real rain problems. 2011, however, was the opposite! I heard from many producers over the last year or so what a challenge it was that year, with cool temperatures and lots of rain. As a result, many red wines were unripe, showing green, woody flavours and not a lot of ripe fruit. So kudos to the producers who made good wines from that year!

The early released 2012’s show what a ripe vintage it was (something the whites showed last year), and the couple of 2013s…well, next year’s releases should be staggering, let’s just put it that way!

So here it goes with the reds! For tasting notes, you can either check out the tweets from my recent trip to the Okanagan (follow me @sbwinepage), or my new BC Wine Guide, which has tasting notes for past vintages of many of these wines as well (www.sbwinesite.com).

Syrah
• 2010 Marichel ($40)
• 2011 Nichol Vineyards ($34)
• 2011 Burrowing Owl ($30)
• 2012 Moraine ($25)
• 2010 Mt. Lehman ($25)
• 2011 Moon Curser ($25)
• 2012 Perseus ($20)
Pinot Noir
• 2011 Blue Mountain Reserve ($36)
• 2011 Kettle Valley Hayman ($33)
• 2011 Kettle Valley Reserve ($33)
• 2012 La Frenz Reserve ($32)
• 2010 Averill Creek ($26)
• 2012 Eau Vivre ($20)
Merlot
• 2011 & 2012 La Frenz ($26)
• 2011 Cassini Cellars ($18)
Marechal Foch
• 2012 Quail’s Gate Old Vines ($25)
• 2013 Lang ($19)
Bordeaux Blend
• 2011 Laughing Stock Portfolio ($42)
• 2011 La Frenz Grand Total ($40)
• 2011 Moon Curser Border Vines ($25)
Miscellaneous
• 2011 & 2012 La Frenz Cabernet Sauvignon ($28)
• 2011 Church & State Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
• 2012 Moraine Malbec ($25)

There you go! Another shopping list for you!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

THE 2014 SB WINE AWARDS – PART 1

July 16, 2014

I recently saw the winners of the 2014 Lieutenant Governor Awards for BC Wines and was once again…well, there are a bunch of descriptors for what I felt, some of which weren’t printable!

Rather than simply venting, like I usually do each year, I have decided to take a more positive approach – and do my own wine awards based on all the BC wines I tasted this year!

And mine won’t have some of the restrictions of the LG Awards either i.e. the wines don’t have to be designated VQA, and they won’t all be compared against each other (white/red/rose; sweet/dry; Cabernet/Merlot/Chardonnay, etc.).

Instead, I will do my awards by category. The only real criteria is that they have to be made in BC from BC grapes and have been released this year. And that I had tasted them, of course!

There ended up being quite a number of wines that made the cut, so I am going to break it down into two batches – whites first, and then reds next week.

So here it goes with the whites! I am simply listing the wine, producer, price, and where you can buy it. For tasting notes, you can either check out the tweets from my recent trip to the Okanagan (follow me @sbwinepage), or my new BC Wine Guide, which has tasting notes for past vintages of many of these wines as well (www.sbwinesite.com).

Chardonnay
• 2012 La Frenz Reserve ($29, available from the winery and select
private wine stores)
• 2011 Nk Mip Qwam Qmpt ($24.95, available from the winery, BC
Government Signature stores, and VQA stores)
• 2011 Quinta Ferreira ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
• 2012 Township 7 ($20.99, available from the winery and BC
Government Signature stores)
Gewurztraminer
• 2013 Desert Hills ($22.99, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
Pinot Gris
• 2013 Moraine ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
Riesling
• 2013 La Frenz, ($29, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
• 2013 Moraine ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
Sauvignon Blanc
• 2013 La Frenz ($22, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
Semillon
• 2013 La Frenz ($22, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
• 2013 Howling Bluff ($19, available from the winery and at VQA stores
Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon
• 2013 Howling Bluff ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA
stores)
• 2012 La Frenz Ensemble ($29, available from the winery and select
private wine stores)
Viognier
• 2013 La Frenz ($22, available from the winery and select private
wine stores)
• 2013 Marichel ($19.90, available from the winery and at VQA stores)

There you go! Quite a shopping list…and it won’t break the bank either. Red wines, and maybe a couple of Roses, next week.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

Naramata Bench Spring Release 2014 – More Great Wines Coming!

May 7, 2014

Last weekend the Naramata Bench Wineries Association was in town for its Annual Spring Release events. Held at the Four Seasons, both the Trade/Media event — and the public ‘Wine for Waves’ fundraising event in support of the Vancouver Aquarium – were very well done and provided a good glimpse into the new 2012 and 2013 wines (as well as an update on some of the 2011s).

I tweeted out most of my tasting notes, so won’t repeat them here. Instead, I will provide my overall thoughts.

The Vintages – 2013 whites and roses were very good, very ripe. That bodes well for the reds to come. The late released ‘12s were also very nice, although the ’11s were more of a mixed bag (but that was a tough vintage).

Best Overall Winery – LA Frenz No change here, and probably no surprise for those who follow BC wines. All 9 wines I tasted (3 reds, 5 whites, 1 sweet) were fabulous. Interestingly, LA Frenz was just awarded ‘Best Small Winery in North America’, and they once again showed why!

Best Surprises – Perseus Winery and Moraine. I knew about the former’s Merlot, but the Syrah and Cabernet Shiraz were also great. And all their wines are < $20. Moraine I had never tried before, but really liked their Malbec and Syrah.

Biggest Disappointments – I won't 'name names', but still too many wineries trying to make the 'big red wine'. End result is still huge wood and tannin, little or no fruit, big prices.

Best Reds Two of them were 2011s – the La Frenz Cabernet Sauvignon and the Laughing Stock Portfolio and Syrah. Amazingly ripe for the vintage, they were a joy to drink now but had 3 – 5 years in them. La Frenz wins on price ($28 vs $42 and $36 respectively at Laughing Stock). The best 2012s I tasted were the La Frenz regular and reserve Pinot Noirs (both super ripe black cherries, earth and spice), Perseus Syrah and Cabernet-Shiraz (the former a Rhone clone, with black pepper and cherries, the latter like an Aussie Shiraz; both $19.99!) and Moraine's Syrah and Malbec (both more fruit than wood, $23.50). Finally, Lang's '13 Marechal Foch was a revelation! Explosively ripe for a Foch, with meaty, berry flavours.

Best Roses Hillside and Monster were the best in the slightly off dry style (which I like the best). And kudos for pricing them at about $16.

Best Whites For new releases, I loved the '13s from La Frenz (Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier) and '12 Reserve Chardonnay. The former are super ripe but dry, bang on varietally, and stayed at $22 (but worth $5 – $10 more). The latter is a Beringer Reserve clone, with ripe, lush butterscotch citrus – at $29 it is less than half the price of its US cousin. Same with Howling Bluff's '13s, the Semillon (a new bottling) and Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc. The latter, in particular, is an amazing wine and together with the Pinot Gris (to be released in a few weeks) may be the best white wine bargains in BC. Finally, Poplar Grove's regular Chardonnay is nice Cali style wine for < $21.

Sweet – I ended the night with La Frenz's latest NV Tawny Port, and it was as gorgeous as ever.

In summary, another great event! Kudos to Tina Baird at the Society and the Four Seasons for hosting.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com